REALITY IS NOT OVER RATED
I have been gaming since I was four years old when I played the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles on the Nintendo Entertainment System, or NES. While that game is now notoriously known for how hard it was, it did start a hobby that has transformed into a passion going on to this day twenty four years out. From the NES, Sega Genesis, Super Nintendo, N64, PlayStation One, Xbox, PlayStation 3, Xbox 360, Wii, PlayStation 4, and PC, and across all platforms I have enjoyed countless adventures and stories that will last a lifetime. The biggest impact that gaming has had for me is the social aspect, and how I have engaged with the people of the real world. Ready Player One, or RPO, touches on this beautiful aspect of video games, as well as the very real pitfalls of the industry.
Video games have always been a source of escapism for the player; in Ready Player One, the Oasis is the source of pure, unadulterated escapism from a bleak, and desolate existence, but it also holds treasures with real world rewards. We follow Wade Watts, also known as Percival, to other players of the Oasis, as he and the entirety of the world seeks three keys left behind by the creator of the Oasis. In a very Willy Wonka style contest, those that solve the clues and find the three mystical keys will be given control over all of the Oasis and the game company that oversees the game. Throughout the film, we see the clear contrast between the unbound landscape of the Oasis the overpopulated, junk riddled ghettos of the real world. Wade/Percival, along with his companions, go on an adventure t claim the proverbial pot of gold at the end of the rainbow and get caught up in a race against time to find the prize before the greedy 101 software company claims full control over the Oasis, and consequently, the world.
This film is a classic Spielberg adventure flick with a relatable protagonist, a world that you want to be a part of, and moral to the story that you will walk away from feeling uplifted and hopeful about the world and the people around you. The Oasis revels in “geek” and “nerd” culture, celebrating all of us that love film, music, video games, and everything pop culture. So many times the film was making references to films, television shows, and games that either I played or have watched time and time again. My knowing many of those tidbits of knowledge and I felt part of the community and part of Percival’s team. The film racks up major points in my book on that account, but it manages to have an interesting setting.
The setting, while in the future, feels very current with the fairly recent implementation of virtual reality into our world. The technology is tangible, not beyond our reach or realm of comprehension to the viewer giving the film even more believability. The antagonist, 101 company, feels a kin to current game publishing industries that value profiteering off of the players even to the point of manipulation just to earn a quick buck. The film does not hide this call out in any regard. However, the film does present that all of the destruction is not coming from the antagonist.
In the real world, Wade Watts lives in a trailer park called the Stacks in the year 2045 with his destitute aunt and her dead beat boyfriend. He uses the Oasis, as many in this world do, to become whatever they chose to be: rich, famous, attractive or powerful; anything as long it is not who they are in reality. Wade seeks the fortune from finding the three keys to fulfill his own self needs, however, his ambitions are challenged by another player who seeks more meaningful pursuits that will have more real world impact. This is where the film touches upon a real-life addiction to the escapism of video games where people, because of undesirable life situation, use video games to an unhealthy degree run from said issues that plague them. RPO strikes a good balance between exposing these draw backs of gaming, but also uplifts the great things that anyone that is part of the gaming culture know and love, the comradery and the joy of playing the game.
As I said earlier, my biggest love of the games now is the ability to connect and socialize with so many people around the globe. I have friends that I game with that live in the same city, two to three states over, live in Canada, I even have a friend that lives in Portugal that I play across multiple games in multiple genres. This is a key theme that I was reminded of after watching Ready Player One, the true reward is simply playing the game, and play it with your friends. I have met people that I would never have a chance to meet in real life, but we all the share the same interest in videos games, anime, music, and movies. This special feeling is one of community and unity amongst passionate fans across all forms of art.
Now that I have praised this film, I should get into the things that I did not like, which is a very short list. My first issue is that there is a traumatic event that happens to Wade, but it didn’t have much impact on me. I don’t know if that was the intention, but I didn’t care really when that event took place. The only other thing that bugged me was with the protagonist love interest. There is supposed be something wrong with her in the real world, but when we see her in the real world, her condition seemed built up and, at the point of the reveal, was absolutely moot.
Ready Player One will definitely become a classic in the coming years, because it plays upon all said aspects of this ever growing gaming culture, and tells us to appreciate what you love no matter how odd it may be viewed, and at the same time warning us to not be consumed by them. It takes us on an adventure to stop the bad guys, but also an adventure into why we love what we love. This film did have some short comings, but nothing that detracted from my experience. I would highly recommend this film; not just to lovers of games and movies, but to the whole family.